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A Year of “Being Extra”

Today we celebrate Be Extra’s 1st birthday! HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO US! In the past year, we have accomplished so many things and we are so proud of our amazing team of volunteers and our community for helping us at every step on our journey to where we are now. If you have followed us on social media, liked one of our posts, read one of our blogs, watched a YouTube video, tuned-in to a livestream, attended an event, or donated to us, we are extremely grateful, thank you! 

Photo by Erwan Hesry on Unsplash

Be Extra- Wellbeing For The Arts CIC was created as a result of the mental health pandemic which was evident in the arts and creative industries. Our aim was to bring wellbeing resources to artists and creatives in accessible and easy to understand ways, and we have most definitely achieved this. We have had many conversations with creatives in the past year who have struggled at some point in their life or regularly with their wellbeing and mental health, and all of these individuals and organisations have expressed how thankful and pleased they are that Be Extra exists and that we are here to raise awareness about wellbeing in the industry. Arts organisations should be taking a greater focus on their creatives’ wellbeing, and we have seen improvements with this in many organisations in the past year, but there are still big changes to be made. In the meantime, Be Extra is here to help you, and we will continue to campaign for wellbeing for the arts at all levels, professionally and in community arts networks.

The world is in quite a different place to where it was a year ago: many artists and creatives are able to return to their work and hobbies again, in-person or online, but I don’t think any of us can say that in the past year, not one of us has struggled, be that mentally, physically, financially, with our health, or with our art, questioning our creativity at times. The past year has changed us all, and with that, we hope that we have been able to help you, even if you saw just one of our social media posts, we hope you have taken time to think about your wellbeing, and even done something to improve it, or given you the skills and knowledge to help you help someone else.

We know that one’s wellbeing cannot be miraculously improved overnight, it can never be fully “fixed”. but with small, regular steps, we can all greatly improve our wellbeing in time. This is why it is still so important for Be Extra to exist, there is always something that we can work on with our wellbeing, and hopefully, we will always be here to offer you some advice. 

Our Director of Media, Emma Kennedy, had this to say about our 1st year:

“I joined Be Extra as one of the company’s first volunteers (which is very strange to think about looking back) as the only person on the Social Media and Marketing Team. In time, I joined the board of directors and we have taken on more volunteers and the Marketing Team is now filled with talented and wonderful individuals who I get to work with and share creative ideas with every week. I am incredibly proud of every volunteer at Be Extra, dedicating time to our cause, learning new skills and gaining new friendships along the way. I can’t wait for the future of this company and what the next year will bring! 

Through being a volunteer at Be Extra, I have not only helped other artists and creatives with their wellbeing, but I have also seen a big improvement in my own. Of course I still have moments when I struggle with mental health, but I have learnt a lot of wellbeing techniques in the past year which I now incorporate into my daily life, and I have also helped friends and family when they have been struggling. So on a personal level, I am extremely thankful that Be Extra exists, as without it, the past year would have been very different for me.”

We like to focus our attention on you and your wellbeing, but today, we’d like to celebrate and share some of the things that we have achieved in the past year:

Our social media accounts have become a valuable wellbeing resource for many artists and creatives, where we share lots of tips and techniques in simple ways which people can incorporate into their daily lives.

Our team of amazing volunteers has grown and we have developed great friendships with each other (despite the fact that we have never met in-person!)

Our Wellbeing Live series has given artists, creatives, and wellbeing practitioners a platform to showcase their art and to discuss the importance of looking after our wellbeing. 

Our blogs have been read by hundreds of people where our writers discuss arts and wellbeing topics in an honest and heart-felt way, again showing how important it is to pay attention to our wellbeing. 

Our Student Wellbeing Sessions have been attended by students from a range of Universities in the UK, where our Wellbeing Coaches have offered valuable advice to students who have really struggled during lockdowns. 

Our Wellbeing Wednesdays series brought wellbeing advice from a Psychologist to many people across a wide range of topics from CBD (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), to EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique). 

We have achieved so much already and we cannot thank all of our volunteers and creative community enough for helping creatives “Be Extra” by taking time to improve their own and others’ wellbeing, bring on our next year!

Patrick Hall, PA to the CTO, had this to say about Be Extra:

My time volunteering for Be Extra has been phenomenal and I have met some truly amazing people. Lockdown made me feel quite lonely and isolated from other creatives, so it was really great to join such an open and friendly network of artistic people. I have loved every minute of it.

For me, one of the main highlights was celebrating Pride month with all of the amazing social media posts and writing my own blog article which really felt like it came from the heart. I loved receiving support from people who volunteer for Be Extra and people who come follow it online. It was truly amazing to witness. 

I have also loved the Wellbeing Live sessions. The potato-printing was particularly good fun, as well as the concerts from duo, Emma & Lewis, and the fantastic cellist, Chloe Winand. To get those going on a regular basis and get so much interest and enthusiasm from people outside of Be Extra was amazing. 

Let’s not forget that we’ve had several social events in the past year, where we’ve come together in the difficult times of the pandemic to sit through quizzes and a showing of the Grinch (which thankfully worked okay once I got my laptop to work). We have discovered Alexandra Deterte to be a phenomenal quiz-writer and Lizzy Hardman and Emma Kennedy’s mum to be very knowledgeable participants. We also had our first Secret Santa and our first Secret Easter Bunny, both of which resulted in some fantastic present-giving. 

The Development & Outreach team has really flourished, and I felt that our last grant application was a significant improvement on all the other ones that we’ve done. I can’t wait to welcome a new member or to join that team because I think we’re going to make Be Extra even more exciting than it already is. 

Finally, there’s the walking blog series or the ‘Trinity’ of three articles, as we called it. This was our first (and definitely not last) attempt at a collaborative writing project.  I loved seeing us all help each other, share ideas and learn more about each other. Look out for more projects like this. 

1,178 followers on Instagram, 677 likes on Facebook, 25 active volunteers, our first ever Instagram-Live and our first ever Yoga Session- I think it’s safe to say that we’re doing amazingly. And we’re the first website to come up when you Google ‘Be Extra’, so well done team!

Kat Rees, CEO of Be Extra, had the following to say:

Over the past year, we have developed workshops, corporate courses, digital courses and means to create bespoke resources on the spot. Thus, Be Extra has become a leading provider for bespoke wellbeing resources for creatives which are expert lead, accessible and affordable. Lead by professional creatives and psychological professionals, we have an unique ability to answer the challenges that they face in their lives and careers.

We are leading the revolution to support artists in a time when they are so desperately in need of assistance. 

In 2018, a study by Shorter et Al. showed that 60% of artists had considered killing themselves and a further 29% had made an actionable plan to do so. As a result of the pandemic and a lack of support for the arts, the decline in mental health evidently declined drastically.

Questions that we have considered over the past year include:

How should an artist look after their wellbeing when spending 200 days on tour?

How should an artist look after their wellbeing when they have 12 rejections of their art per week?

How should an artist navigate their wellbeing while receiving a fluctuating monthly income?

We have spent the year researching and delving into these crucial questions and we believe, now more than ever, we can continue to actively make a difference to the Arts industry. Our test of trade with a bespoke wellbeing course for creative students helped 700 students to learn key skills to manage their wellbeing and the know-how to access further support when needed. The University of Durham said that their students left feeling that they now had the tools to manage their wellbeing and that the course uniquely was fun, accessible and that it answered the needs of their students.

This isn’t the end, and there are so many more people that we can continue to impact and we strive to do so. 

Alexandra Deterte, PA to the Director of Media

I joined the Be Extra team in November 2020 along with a few others including a fellow PA, Patrick Hall, and it was the best decision I’ve made in a long time. I moved to the UK in October 2020 and found myself going straight into a lockdown with no job, no friends and only knowing my husband. Fin is my best friend but sometimes you need that other friendship, that other interaction with someone who you don’t see on a daily basis. 

That’s where Be Extra comes in. It has been amazing being able to help our arts community but Be Extra has done so much more for me than I have done for Be Extra. I have made great friendships and have come out of my shell more than I ever have. I wrote a very personal blog which I never would have done without the support I received from every member of Be Extra. We’ve had some amazing socials which are always full of laughter even when we’ve had some technical difficulties. Be Extra has always focused on making safe and supportive communities within the arts and by doing so they have formed their own supportive and social community within Be Extra. 

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